Well, I’ve had worse.

The weekend-long, will-it-won't-it rain situation was bloody annoying. No doubt about it. As was the sloppy mud bath that followed. But that’s all it was — a bit annoying. Try being at Glastonbury 2007. That was hard work.

However, I say that as a non-disabled person. And I do appreciate that, when the weather takes a shitty turn, things become increasingly tricky for those with accessibility needs. But the biggest moaners, throughout, seemed to be those with no accessibility needs whatsoever. Go figure.

For me, anyone who goes to Download knows what they might be getting into. After all, the festival is known by regulars as “Drownload” or “Brownload.” So, until the organisers find a magic fix to the mud problem, we all just need to get stuck in as best we can and get on with it.

That doesn’t negate the fact there were moments of total clusterfuc*ery, with the weather forcing sets to be cut short, and a host of technical issues. Naturally, then, I’m bloody glad to be dry and warm again.


Like many things in the last decade or so, there were a handful of issues dividing the masses over this year’s Download Festival. Not least the line-up. A shining example was Fall Out Boy headlining the main stage — Apex — while Pantera (featuring the legendary Zakk Wylde on guitar) topped the bill on Opus, the festival’s second stage. Odd decision to swallow for many, that. But this isn’t the mid-90s. Times change.

The perception pendulum of what constitutes metal, and what constitutes rock is ever-changing, and it doesn’t always swing in a direction everybody likes — especially if you’re a metal purist. Both of the aforementioned bands had sizable crowds, though, and both audiences were having the time they’d endured the mud for. You can’t question or knock that. Each to their own.

Barclays sponsorship of Live Nation festivals was the other big cause of friction, though. Some acts pulled out ahead of time, while others did so last minute, leaving gaps in parts of the billing. Thankfully, though, the bank pulled its sponsorship at the 11th hour, meaning some artists, uncertain about how to proceed, were able to commit to their set — Tom Morello for one.

Another hot button issue was Queens of the Stoneage (QOTSA) as the Friday night headliner. I heard a lot of people say “they’re just not headliners.” And that got me thinking: Just how many more times can Metallica or Iron Maiden headline this damn event? At some point, things have to move on.

Sure, QOTSA might not be “metal”, and they might not be the most show-y of bands, but they’ve earned their stripes, and they’ve been a major influence on many of the bands around in rock music today. And I’m not even their biggest fan. I just think they are as good an option as any, unless we keep repeating headliners, year on year. That would be boring.

And guess what? Josh Homme et al had the material to back-up a headline spot. It’s easy to forget just how much they do have. The sound was good, with Jon Theodore and Michael Shuman quite the metronomic and groove driven rhythm section, laying it all down. The only pitfall was Homme attempting to be a “frontman”. Don’t do it, Josh. Just be you. Please.


Speaking of being true to yourself, Bowling for Soup (BFS) did just that. Despite missing the incredible presence of founding member Chris Malmsteen, the remaining three-piece delivered what the band has been doing exceptionally well for 30 years: making people happy. And after several days of apocalyptic weather, the Dowload fans needed it.

I recently read an article where the writer made a case for BFS being criminally underrated. And, while I loved them back in the day — my early 20s — I wasn’t so sure I agreed. But then this performance put me right back in my place. They played with the swagger of legend status. And the songs kept on coming. Banger after banger.

While they obviously missed their man Malmsteen, on a personal level, the show didn’t suffer one bit. At least audibly, anyway. They’re true entertainers, the songs are hooky af, and their sound is powerful. I’d go as far as saying they might have been the best band on the bill. I’m surprised at myself as I write that. But also aware that I sound like a snobby arse for being surprised. Anyway…

BFS did come up against some stiff competition, though. That came in the shape of another blast-from-the-past, Limp Bizkit. Now, while I was looking forward to their set — I was a fan of their stuff in my wanna-look-like-Zack-de-la-Rocha-while-playing-bass-in-a-rap-metal-band days — I wasn’t as excited as everyone else around me. That changed as soon as they started.

They opened and ended with ‘Break Stuff’, which has been described as a “cheap shot” by some — not me. As has the sampled interludes that are interspersed between the band’s own material. But I see the former as a stroke of self-awareness and genius; and the latter as the band just being Limp Bizkit. The rap / hip hop underpinning of their stuff depends on sampling and referencing. This isn’t a new thing.

In fact, a weekend highlight came when Fred and the boys blasted out George Michael’s ‘Careless Whisper’, and the voices of tens-of-thousands of denim- and leather-clad rockers sang along with genuine joy. The sun was beaming. Everyone felt good. Everybody was happy. If that’s not a true festival moment, I don’t know what is.

I experienced that “shared moment” feeling only one other time throughout the weekend, and that was when Oh My God! It’s The Church played on Wednesday night in the festival’s Village area. If you’ve not seen them, make it your mission to do so. Just imagine a coming together to praise life, to celebrate difference and to reclaim worship as something that isn’t the sole remit of God-fearing folk. It really is an experience, and one you’ll be smiling at throughout.


All that fun was bloody knackering, though. I felt it as I stood watching Pantera on Saturday night. I mean, the first time I saw them was at Ozzfest ‘98, at The Milton Keynes Bowl (as it was called back then). Now, 26-years on, I find all this mud and being happy stuff quite tiring. However, seeing Phil and the gang do their thing after all these years was pretty damn special.

If you don’t know, Pantera lost their pioneering guitarist Dimebag Darrell to a shooting back in 2004, and that tragic act put the band in stasis. Then, in 2018, Vinnie Paul (the band’s original drummer) passed away, making comeback shows look even less likely. The only way it was ever going to happen was with the addition of some seriously big-named players. Cue the entrance of Zakk Wylde (Black Label Society, Ozzy Osbourne etc) on guitar and Charlie Benante (Anthrax) on drums.

For me, Pantera should have absolutely headlined the main stage over Fall Out Boy on Saturday. Hearing ‘A New Level’, ‘Mouth for War’, and ‘I’m Broken’ live again will stick with me for a long time. And I want all these younger rock ‘n’ rollers to experience it the way I did — loud and massive on the main stage. But that won’t happen. Times change, and that’s just my opinion. And probably not one shared by the overall majority at the event.

As the arguments and debates about lineups, sponsors and mud still rage-on, post event, I think we all need to embrace that we can’t all agree all the time. Times change. Sure, Download has work to do, but so do we. The metal and rock community is proud of its openness and friendliness, and I think everyone needs to keep that in mind in the harder times.

But controversial opinion to wrap things up: The mainstage headliners and the second stage headliners should have swapped. Then it’d be a real metal festival. There, I said it. Get over it. Excluding Funeral for a Friend, though, by the way. Even if they were great, and a real blast from the past…